Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Narcissistic Worship

You have probably seen the car commercial that asks the question, “When you turn your car on, does it return the favor?” I pretty much hate that commercial but I think it is very indicative of our culture these days. Everything is about making me feel good, look good, or feel better about myself. To some degree, we have all become like that ancient Greek man, Narcissus who died of thirst and starvation while being enamored by his reflection in a pond.

Unfortunately, much of this attitude, no sickness, has spilled over into our understanding of worship. We come to worship with an attitude of what we will do for God. We leave worship critiquing it based on what we got out of it or how we feel when the service is over. Who is the person we are truly concerned about? It is ourselves – what we do, how we feel, how we look, what benefit we gain. We are so fixated on our growth and becoming all we should be, even as Christians, that we are looking down into ourselves instead of up to God. An acquaintance of mine wrote a spoof worship song about just this sort of thing. The song is It’s All About Me and the words are:
It’s all about me, it’s not about you
I sing of me, myself, and I
The world revolves around me too
It’s plain to see its all about me, me, me

It’s all about me; I know you feel it too
I only think about myself
‘Cause I know that you are too
I sure we can agree, its all about me, me, me

I have my own Trinity, I, myself and me, I am my own deity
I am a tri-unity, Navel gazing on me, I am my own community (Words and Music by Rob Still)

We need to stop thinking that we are the main players on the stage. We are but the supporting characters in the drama God is unfolding. Jesus Christ is the person around whom the whole plot pivots. Bob Webber states, “Biblical worship tells and enacts [God’s] story. Narcissistic worship, instead, names God as an object to whom we offer honor, praise, and homage. Narcissistic worship is situated in the worshiper, not in the action of God that the worshiper remembers through Word and table.” [Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 232-233.] We desperately need to get our eyes off of ourselves and up to God. Only when our view is steadfastly locked on Him, can we truly worship be the people God has called and intended for us to be.

Next Time: Biblical Worship

Monday, May 5, 2008

Worship Defined

The first definition I learned of worship was that the word worship comes from the old English word weorthscipe which means to ascribe something as worthy. I was then further instructed that this was how we worshipped we tell God that he is worthy of all praise, honor, and glory. I think my first definition of worship might be a good jumping off point, but it is missing a whole lot of the story. In this definition of worship, I am the subject of the sentence pointing my action of worship at God the object of the sentence. If God is only the object of our worship, if God just sits and observes us as we go through our acts of worship, then we have placed God somewhere far removed from us like the patron of the opera in the furthest box seat from the stage. Yet scripture repeatedly tells us that God is close to us. God is far more than just the object or observer of our worship, He is the initiator.

Our relationship with God is like a dance where God initiates and we respond. How does that dance play out in worship? Bob Webber juxtaposes these two views of worship this way, “If God is the object of worship, then worship must proceed from me, the subject, to God, who is the object. . . . If God is understood, however, as the personal God who acts as subject in the world and in worship rather that the remote God who sits in the heavens, then worship is understood not as the acts of adoration God demands of me but as the disclosure of Jesus, who has done for me what I cannot do for myself. In this way worship is the doing of God’s story within me so that I live in the pattern of Jesus’s death and resurrection.” [Robert Webber, The Divine Embrace: Recovering the Passionate Spiritual Life (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2006), 232.] God has initiated His life in us and our response is one of grateful worship; a worship that retells God’s story and lives out God’s story in my every minute of my every day. Worship is then not something we do, but something we are. It is transformative and infectious. It changes not only how we see ourselves, but how we see God, others, and the world.

Do you need a new definition of worship? Do you need to rethink how you come to and participate in worship? Summer is coming. Why not make this summer a season of plumbing the depths and reaching the heights of all worship is supposed to be?

[Next time: Narcissistic Worship]